unctad.org | Delegations at UNCTAD Board meeting concerned by Palestinian economy downside risks
Delegations at UNCTAD Board meeting concerned by Palestinian economy downside risks
25 September 2012
With a critical situation unfolding on the ground, delegates from some 20 regional groups and member States at the Trade and Development Board session yesterday afternoon highlighted the topicality and timeliness of UNCTAD's report on the Palestinian economy and welcomed its efforts to assist the Palestinian people.

The Coordinator of the G77 and China noted that the report confirmed the key constraints facing the economic development in the occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). He welcomed the analysis of the challenges confronting the under-utilized and underdeveloped Palestinian agricultural sector. Many speakers aligning themselves with the statement highlighted agriculture as one of the main sectors that the Palestinian people relied on and that restrictive Israeli policies, rooted mainly in occupation, prevented it to play a strategic role. It was noted that UNCTAD's report contained concrete recommendations to attain sustainable economic growth in the long-run, with the prospect for creating jobs and reducing unemployment.

The Permanent Observer of Palestine commended the secretariat for its “brief report full of statistics and analysis which save readers from having to consult any other source.” With reference to the current economic crisis in the OPT, he stated that “it has become unacceptable politically, legally and in our people’s view, that the Palestinian economy should remain hostage to a constraining and distorted customs union adopted 18 years ago to serve a transitional agreement of 5 years in advance of a normal trade agreement between two states.” It was only natural that “the Palestinian people today are demanding an exit from the dependency symbolized by this agreement at the earliest possible date.” He said he was confident, however, that the “determination of the Palestinian people to live in dignity and freedom would ensure that their voice and just cause would be heard in all international forums, here in Geneva and there in New York.”

The Coordinator of the Asian group focused on the array of issues the report raises, expressing special concern that one in every two Palestinians suffer poverty, most severely amongst Palestinians in east Jerusalem and Gaza. Meanwhile food insecurity is most severe in Gaza, affecting an overall two out of three Palestinians, he noted.

The African and Latin American and Caribbean regional groups also expressed concern over the fiscal crisis facing the Palestinian Authority.

Malaysia stressed the dangers of simultaneous high unemployment, poverty, food insecurity, restrictions on mobility, faltering donor aid, a persistent fiscal crisis and a deteriorating socio-economic structure.

Other member states joined the discussion on the spectrum of issues covered by the secretariat report, asking the international community to step up their assistance to the Palestinian people, including Thailand, Tunisia, Egypt, Cuba, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Algeria, and Morocco.

The representative of the European Union thanked the secretariat for its report and acknowledged the work of the UNCTAD in assessing economic development prospects, examining obstacles to trade and development, and assisting the Palestinian people.

The representative of Israel, however, said it was “disappointing that Israel again finds itself confronted by a report on UNCTAD's assistance to the Palestinians that involves itself in politics and partisanship rather than progress and professionalism. A report that is far from impartial, full of faulty references and biased sources.” He said that UNCTAD's report failed “to mention other positive, very real and concrete steps that have been and are continuing to be taken by the Israeli Government to improve the Palestinian economy and the lives and conditions of the Palestinians.”

The representative of South Africa noted that his Government’s understanding of the situation in Palestine is “inevitably informed by our history of apartheid, oppression and abuse of human rights.” As part of South Africa’s “policy coherence” in this respect, he noted that “the Government of South Africa released Government Notice 379 of 2012, which requires traders in South Africa to refrain from incorrectly labelling products, for sale in South Africa, that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territories products purportedly emanating from Israel”. This was an important measure to ensure that consumers in South Africa should not be misled into believing that products actually originating from Israeli settlements or from the OPT are products originating from Israel.”

Most delegations joined the call for stepped up support to the Palestinian people and to UNCTAD’s programme of assistance so that it could strengthen its research capacity and technical cooperation projects in line with the intensified work-programme mandated by the UNCTAD XIII ministerial conference held in Doha, Qatar in April of this year.


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